Plainridge Park Awarded Temporary Massachusetts Sports Betting License Despite Barstool Concerns
- The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has approved Plainridge Park Casino’s application for a temporary Category 1 retail sports betting license
- PENN Entertainment owns the casino and plans to partner with Barstool Sportsbook for its retail and online sports betting services
- Barstool Sports will undergo full suitability investigation by Investigations and Enforcement Bureau when fully acquired by PENN Entertainment in February
Questions over PENN Entertainment’s partnership with Barstool Sports were the focal point of a several-hour Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting that resulted in the approval of a temporary Category 1 retail Massachusetts sports betting license for the PENN Entertainment-owned Plainridge Park Casino.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously approved the temporary retail sports betting license application for Plainridge Park Casino, which is dependent on several conditions. The commissioners agreed that Barstool Sports will have to fully cooperate with a thorough background and suitability investigation from the Massachusetts Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) when it is acquired by PENN entertainment in February.
Additionally, the media company will have to limit audience members for all future Barstool Sports College Football Shows to those who are 21 years of age or older as part of the approval.
Barstool Sports at Center of Hearing
The temporary license will allow Plainridge Park Casino to launch retail sports betting in early February when it goes live as long as the conditions of the approval are met.
As was the case for its original hearing three weeks ago, PENN Entertainment’s relationship with Barstool Sports, its personalities, and its advertising practices were at the center of today’s discussions. PENN Entertainment President Jay Snowden opened the hearing with a lengthy discussion of the commission’s worries over Barstool Sports and recent media coverage of its former president Dave Portnoy.
Snowden stressed that Barstool Sports is a marketing partner of PENN Entertainment and has no influence over any decisions for Barstool Sportsbook Massachusetts, which is wholly owned and operated by PENN.
“Since Barstool is a marketing partner with zero control over any of PENN, PPC (Plainridge Park Casino), or PSI’s (Penn Sports Interactive) gaming operations, we do not believe there is any basis in law or fact to deny PPC a Category 1 temporary license or PSI a Category 3 temporary license,” he said.
Despite his assurances, Commissioner Eileen O’Brien shared her concerns over PENN’s decision to partner with Barstool Sports. By tying PENN Entertainment to Barstool, she said, the company needs to accept all the good, the bad, and the ugly that comes along with the union.
She pointed to a number of instances of the Barstool Sports College Football Shows being held on or near college campuses. The recent violation and fine from the Ohio Casino Control Commission for the show’s broadcast on a Tulsa campus is troubling, she said.
A number of personalities on the broadcast urged the audience, which had no age restrictions to attend, to sign up for the Barstool Sportsbook app during the show. PENN Entertainment was fined $250,000 for the show and the violation.
Due to the partnership between PENN and Barstool, O’Brien called for the IEB to consider Barstool Sports as a qualifying entity and for the company to undergo a full background suitability check as a condition of temporary licensure for Plainridge Park Casino.
Other MGC members were wary of declaring Barstool Sports as a qualifying entity. Commissioner Jordan Maynard did not support the decision to view Barstool Sports as a qualifying entity, expressing his discomfort that no other operating partner for any other applicant had been qualified as such.
Maynard said all Category 1 applicants should be treated equally during the licensing process.
As part of a compromise, O’Brien said she was comfortable with Barstool Sports undergoing a suitability investigation by the IEB in February after PENN Entertainment fully acquires the company.
Snowden agreed to the condition with assurances that the temporary license approval would not stop PENN Entertainment’s from launch retail sports betting in February or online sports betting in March if the conditions were met.
PENN Sports Interactive Hearing Put on Hold
The MGC was set to begin Penn Sports Interactive’s hearing for its tethered Category 3 online sports betting license this afternoon, but put the hearing on hold until Jan. 3 due to the lateness of the day.
PENN Sports Interactive, which operates Barstool Sportsbook, will handle the online sports betting program for Plainridge Park Casino.